The Point of Enjoyment

arrows pointing
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” ~ Lewis Carroll

A point, whether of an idea, joke or tapered object, is always arrived at in the immediate. You get the point when you get the point. Even if you don’t get the point right away, when you do get it, you get it at a precise moment.

do you see the point

In the game of darts you get points by getting the point of your dart to stick to a point aimed at, but over and above the mechanics of the game the real point is to enjoy it.

But why? Why do we enjoy what we do?

lawn-darts
Lawn Darts was enjoyed in the 1980s: 6,700 people were treated in hospital and three children died.

Science says that enjoyment is a matter of brain chemistry. A characteristic of people with depression and mental illness is anhedonia: an inability to gain pleasure from normally pleasurable experiences.

stuber
Art by Murfish.

Brain expert Dr. Stuber PhD might say (and did), “GABA neurons located in the VTA are just microns away from dopamine and are negative regulators of dopamine function… A dysfunction in these GABA neurons might potentially underlie different aspects of neuropsychiatric illness, such as depression” (UNC Healthcare).

Psychologists treat happiness as if it’s mysterious. They recommend working on a meaningful career, spending time with friends, savoring the day and so on, but happiness doesn’t come from outside.

Assuming your GABA neurons aren’t buzz-killing dopamine release, there are as many ways to enjoy as there are people but it boils down to one thing: We enjoy what we enjoy (because we enjoy it).

It’s circular – like Donna Summer singing, “Love to love you baby.”

circular-reasoning

X is true because of Y. Y is true because of X. We dance because it’s enjoyable. It’s enjoyable because we dance. We play to have fun and have fun when we play. If we’re forced to play, it isn’t play anymore. It’s emotion first, then realization and confabulation.

sprockets
Now we dance.

If the point of enjoyment is to enjoy, the question is: What is the meaning of true enjoyment? This was asked in Quora (a question-and-answer site) and people responded. (Note: names have been changed to protect the anonymous).

Tommy said enjoyment is, “Celebrating life, not one’s life; just life!”  Dieter said enjoyment is, “Living the moment.

live-the-moment

Sally listed enjoyments: “Looking at the smile of a new born baby. Eating Mango by plucking and stealing it from an orchard. Getting wet in rain without bothering about getting wet.”

captain obvious
Simon says, “Enjoy!”

Simon said, “Everyone has different meaning of enjoyment! They have different source of enjoyment but for me … it’s something which I do for myself!”

And there it is.

Maybe there’s a little Simon in all of us. There’s just something about one’s self that makes it special to one’s self. To you, there’s no you quite like you.

Psychologists say it’s good to love one’s self. Why, if there was no you – no you as a living organism with thoughts and feelings in an environment – there would be…what?

absolutely_nothing

But vain self-importance blocks the flow of enjoyment like crimping a garden hose. When things don’t go the way we want, we’re unhappy so the trick is to loosen up and enjoy what you get (see post: Is it serious?).

garden-hoseWe have a limited idea of who we are. Yes, we are each a bag of skin crowned by a cranium, but do we end in skin? What about air in lungs and energy from the sun in our bellies? Going into atoms we see nothing there – just energy waves. We’re energy waves. Not that this matters when you stub your toe, but a “hard” world is softened with a realization of how interconnected and diaphanous (light and insubstantial) this all is.

Philosopher Alan Watts saw interconnections, saying, “where there are no flowers there are no bees, and where there are no bees there are no flowers. They’re really one organism” (Conversation With Myself).

bee-and-flower

A dandelion seed has fine hairs allowing it to ride on the wind. The wind is, in a manner of speaking, a part of itself. Why do advertisers associate their product with love and happiness? It isn’t the product in itself that we want: it’s the feeling the product is said to impart.

happy3What you love is what you enjoy. Enjoyment is a one step process: Express love for something and you are happy.

Author of The Element (2009), Ken Robinson, said, “To be in your element you have to love it… Being good at something is not a good enough reason to do it…It’s about finding the thing that resonates within you most fully” (see Ken Robinson video).

There’s a little verse from an ancient Hindu text called the Rig Veda that tells of the tree of life and two birds. One bird eats the tree’s fruit (some good some bad) and the other watches. They represent two aspects of ourselves. We are the bird eating – we participate in the action of life (killing and eating), experiencing joy and sorrow – but in contemplation, we are the second bird who watches. The trick is to be aware of the second bird watching the first bird participating.

two-birds

You walk into a forest and suddenly you are struck by the wonder of this place. You feel the mystery of being and life itself. A cedar waxwing flies by. That such a creature should be there! That the universe should be here! That’s something that excites you to wonder.

And enjoy.

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Enjoy An Insight


Ever have one of those days? Everybody does. It’s a real bummer of a day (bummer is hippie speak for misfortune). It’s one of those days when you say to yourself, “Why me?” or “Why now?”

that's a bummerYou’re up before the sun “working in a coal mine, going down down,” and someone says, “Lord! I am soooo tired. How long can this go on?” Not that you actually work in a coal mine (unless you do). We’re talking metaphor. We all work in a coal mine of one kind or another. Even those who don’t work, work in a coal mine of a kind.

It’s on a “one of those days” day that you look for a sign that there’s more to life. Not that you’re superstitious. It’s just that when life is boring, pointless and terrible, most of us look for a sign that there’s more to it. Even those who don’t believe in miracles look for them.

coal miner's helmet2But few people see signs these days and those who do are maligned. We might crave a vision but all we have is TV. It’s not because the signs aren’t there that we don’t see them.

We don’t see them because we’re either not paying attention or we lack imagination. It takes a special kind of sensitivity to subtlety for a person to see signs and put it together.

In 1989 two math professors wrote “Methods for Studying Coincidences” in which they outlined four sources for most coincidences: 1) a hidden cause, 2) the psychology of a person, including memory and perception, 3) multiplicity of endpoints, including the counting of “close” or nearly alike events as if they were identical, and 4) the law of truly large numbers – given enough events, almost any coincidence is bound to occur.

They found that most puzzling coincidences arise in the mind of the observer. Therein is the magic! That’s the answer! You alone see the sign! You create magic by tuning into it!

coincidence
Coincidence?

If you pay attention and if you lighten up and if you go for silly walks now and then you will become familiar with wonderful oddities (for complete instructions see: Ministry of Silly Walks) .

Call it coincidence. Call it ironic, moronic or divine. Call it just one of those things. Beyond rationalization, confabulation and logical explanation, there are times when weird things happen and you are in a perfect position to see them (see earlier post: “Enjoy What Is And Take What Comes“).

strange
The Slant.

Let’s say you’re on your way to get your blood tested. As you peddle past a pretty storybook house with a fountain, you’re reminded of fairy-land pictures you’ve seen. The thought occurs to you that you and everyone you know will soon be dead.

It sounds gloomy, but at this moment it isn’t. Knowing that everything you know and have ever known will soon be gone has a way of putting things in perspective (see earlier post “Enjoy A Bad Day“).

chickendeathhome

What’s the worse case scenario in any situation? You could die. But you know that’s going to happen anyway so, as Dire Straits put it, “Why worry?

street-sign-spinnerNo sooner do you have this realization when you see a sign. But it isn’t the sign that catches your attention. It’s the sign spinner. Stopped at a streetlight, you watch the sign spinner. Suddenly life doesn’t seem so bad.

And you hear music coming from somewhere. It’s Tommy James and the Shondells singing Draggin’ the Line which goes, “Makin’ a livin’ the old, hard way.

art_purpleflowers_2Takin’ and givin’ my day by day.
I dig snow and rain and the bright sunshine…
My dog Sam eats purple flowers.
Ain’t got much, but what we got’s ours…
I feel fine!
I’m talkin’ ’bout peace of mind.
I’m gonna take my time.
I’m gettin’ the good sign…”

fountain-05What you thought was going to be “one of those days” changes into something beautiful when you open yourself to connection and possibility.

Jump forward: now you’re in a lab cubicle waiting for a nurse to take your blood. You’re listening to the Moody Blues sing “Tuesday Afternoon” and you think, “That’s funny. It is a Tuesday afternoon!”

The nurse comes in and prepares the syringe. You avert your eyes and on the wall you see a picture of a fountain. It looks like the fountain you saw earlier by the storybook house that reminded you of pictures that you once saw of a fairyland of love. They say that fountains symbolize joy and peace and water is the sign of calmness. All you know is that you like water fountains.

You may look back on your life like a Dickens’ novel. Life seems planned but little accidental meetings and experiences turn out to be main features of the plot. At this minute, looking around at the world as you do, you suddenly have an insight.

You marvel at the wonder of life and in so doing, enjoy it.

 

Enjoy Love

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. And then one fine morning—  So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” (F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, p. 180)

The “single green light” on Daisy’s dock that Gatsby gazed at from his house across the water represents an “unattainable dream.” It is the dream that seems close but can’t be grasped. It represents the hazy future, forever elusive. The green light is Gatsby’s dream of Daisy in the past, but then, if it is of her in the past, how does it represent the future too? Is the future tied to our dreams of the past?

greenlight

We wander as we wonder, “What is that green glow?”

philosophy of enjoyment is about enjoying life through a special kind of awareness but if enjoyment is the purpose of life, doesn’t this philosophy give a green light to selfish behaviour?

In a word: Not at all.

self-reflection

What interests people most? Themselves. Centuries of navel gazing prove it. A starting point for enjoyment is your self – not self as it is normally thought: a brain encased in skin like a car in a garage, but a self imagined (like air).

When asked, “What is the self illusion?” writer Sam Harris observed that the self is not what it seems. “The self illusion explains so many aspects of human behavior as well as our attitudes toward others. When we judge others, we consider them responsible for their actions. But was Mary Bale, the bank worker from Coventry who was caught on video dropping a cat into a garbage can, being true to her self? Or was Mel Gibson’s drunken anti-Semitic rant being himself or under the influence of someone else?” (Psychology Today, 2012).

Harris isn’t saying we should throw out our rule books, but to understand psychological factors that control behaviours.

car personality

We often think of ourselves as our car, our clothes, our job, our house, our country, our uniform, our gender, our age… our body. This has always been the case throughout history. We get caught up in material things.

moon over waterBut when you are lost in gazing at the moon, who are you? Who is the real you – the you who was a child – the secret you – the true you? Who are you when you’re asleep? As Suzanne Little sang in You, “There’s something about you’s not too bad.”

There’s just one thing to do. Look at your self and in mental stillness ask, “Who is my ‘I’?” When angry ask, “Who is angry?” When sad, ask, “Who is sad?”

Instead of ‘self-ish‘ in the dictionary sense of: “lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure” and instead of ‘self-ish’ in the sense of adding an “ish” suffix to say that something is somewhat x (largish, rockish, selfish), this philosophy encourages stepping into natural places to ask, “Who am I?” until the last “I” thought vanishes. And when it does, something beautiful happens.

The world changes. You free yourself from problems and woe can’t touch you.

becoming animal 2

Chatty professors Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari stretch the idea of animal-human boundary not to encourage a metamorphosis like in that scene in American Werewolf in London (1981) but to achieve a “non-identity” which to them is a condition of freedom.

Most people think rocks are inanimate, but writer David Abram (Becoming Animal An Earthly Cosmology2010) says that to a person alive to her animal senses, a rock is “first and foremost another body engaged in the world.” Abram writes:

You are silent, puzzling. I see you gaze back at the rock face now, questioning it, feeling the looming sweep of its bulk within your torso, listening with your muscles and the quiet composition of your bones for what this old, sculpted presence might wish to add to the conversation… The stillness, the quietude of this rock is its very activity, the steady gesture by which it enters and alters your life.”

rock-on-road

Imagine coming upon a rock on the road. You see it. You smell mud and exhaust. You hear two-leggeds and feel the patter of rain. You have a conscious experience from a first-person point of view that isn’t limited to your senses – thought, emotion and imagination are part of it too because you are “part of what it is for the experience to be experienced and part of what it is for the experience to be (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Phenomenology).

Plato once said, “At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet.” This is not a reasonable philosophy. It’s a love philosophy.

love of nature

To most people, most of the time, love is selective. It’s personal. It’s based on contact with people and things that please us, but if you go mentally quiet, there’s an all encompassing and unconditional love that can hit you in unexpected moments.

It’s like seeing the world as a basket of baby bunnies. You go unreasonable and love everything. You see the baby in everyone’s eye. It’s a great love that comes from knowing that everyone is worthy. It’s like that opening scene in Love Actually (2003) where the narrator, Hugh Grant, says, “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport…. Seems to me that love is everywhere” (opening scene Heathrow airport).

And it is.

 

 

Come To Your Senses

quizzing glass
Two guys in a bar circa 1774 by Gabriel Bray (1750–1823).

Two guys are sitting in the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem pub, Nottingham, England. The time is 8:44 PM on a rainy Wednesday, May 4th, 1774. One man, named Humphrey, is wearing a dandy hat and holding a quizzing glass to his eye. Humphrey is rich, clever and bored. Beside Humphrey is Marcus. Marcus has no hat or quizzing glass. They call Marcus a fool but praise and blame don’t worry him. Marcus is not rich, clever or bored. Unlike Humphrey who has everything but contentment, Marcus has nothing but contentment.

quizzer
An 18th century quizzing glass or “quizzer” is a sign of wealth.

“Why are we here, Marcus?” asks Humphrey. “I’ve studied religion, philosophy, science. I’ve tried and I’ve tried but I can’t get no satisfaction! Are we here to enjoy (occasionally) and suffer (primarily) and then die?”

“Yes,” says Marcus. “Isn’t it great?”

No, thinks Humphrey. People are right. You are a fool.

“We are here, my dear Humphrey,” says Marcus smiling (almost exactly like a fool), “to enjoy the last of Brother Lionel’s winter ale.”

tankard of aleThere are men at the next table yelling. Humphrey leans close. “Look at them,” he says. (Marcus complies.) “As long as they are busy and entertained, they will be good but tonight these men will drink and look for a fight. Why? Boredom! And why? Because life has no meaning.”

Marcus looks long at Humphrey. (Someone drops a plate. Smash!) “You my friend,” says Marcus, “are in a muddle.” A muddle? thinks Humphrey. “Yes. A muddle,” says Marcus. “You want to do something but you think there’s nothing to do so you think, ‘What’s the point?’ and conclude: there isn’t one. But what you don’t see is that the point of life (Marcus points) is always arrived at in the immediate moment.”

Humphrey doesn’t move.

HumphreyMarcus holds up a flower. Men at the next table mimic. “What is this?” asks Marcus. A flower, thinks Humphrey. “Is this flower a thing?” Yes. It is a thing (weed actually). “What is a thing?” A thing is an object. “Am I a thing?” No. You are a man. “Why am I not a thing and this flower is?”

Humphrey isn’t sure (maybe Marcus is a thing).

Dandylion“What is the meaning of this thing?” asks Marcus of the flower. It has no meaning. “Would you agree that the purpose of this flower is to flower?” Possibly. “Could the meaning of a bird be that it birds?” Birds bird. Flowers flower. You, you. I get it. “Does not a blue sky mean what it is?” Humphrey isn’t sure. “The trouble is that we word the world. We think ourselves separate. We thing it, or, ‘thing-K’ it.” Marcus emphasizes the hard K sound.

Humphrey rolls his eyes.

ye-olde-trip-to-jerusalem-city-break-nottingham“When we were children, the world was what I’d call spiritual. We didn’t name. We didn’t categorize. We didn’t analyze. We enjoyed. One star was not better than another. We ran around without thinking, ‘Why are we running around?’ It’s like we were in Eden – not the Biblical place – but the feeling of delight, contentment, happiness and bliss.” 

tree3

“We were happy running around naked until we started to notice how we appeared to other selves who might judge. We felt self-conscious. Afraid. Anxious. As we got older we were no longer in the moment. We took ourselves out of time and place and located ourselves behind the eyes. We think of ourselves as within the brain and become like islands, separate and alone. We think there’s a thinker in there and the thinker is separate from the thought and the feeler is separate from the feeling.”

18th century serpent_playerBAM! Two tankards of ale are slammed onto the table by a beautiful barmaid. They pick up their drinks and enjoy as a musician plays chant tunes on a bass wind instrument called a serpent. “To enjoy or not to enjoy, that is the question,” says Marcus. “Enjoyment is a matter of coming to your senses, literally.”

“Interesting. We thing the world, so what do I do? Stop thing-ing?” asks Humphrey.

“No. Don’t do anything. Do nothing! Absolutely nothing – don’t even analyse. There’s nothing you can do that you’re not doing already. That’s the point. The world can’t stop what it’s doing. It is what it’s doing. Same as you.”

barmaid
Hannah Longworth, barmaid of the year 1774.

“The trick,” says Marcus, “is to pay attention like a child who is experiencing the world for the first time. To enter the kingdom of heaven on earth become like a child again. The world is not complicated. There are no problems. If you don’t believe me, try it. Nothing is stopping you from being vividly aware. You’re already having a direct experience, why not make it visionary? Start by not doing anything….: Go!

Humphrey looks at Marcus. Marcus looks at Humphrey. They sit perfectly still for a long time and then, ever so slowly, in unison, they turn their heads in opposite directions. They pan the room with their eyes and take it all in.

MarcusThe feeling within Humphrey switches from boredom to…. a feeling of music 200 years in the future -a feeling of openness to what is. He noticed little things – like the way the ceiling reflected in a puddle on the table, the way the barmaid moved and the men at the next table. Everyone’s face was angelic. He felt no separation between himself and the world.

candle2Humphrey and Marcus finished their ale and parted. Humphrey said he’d never forget being intensely aware. He thanked Marcus for pointing out the obvious and for showing him how to enjoy. A few days later, Humphrey died of an abscessed tooth.

They say he died happy.

 

Enjoy Imagination

sunrays4

Jakob Böhme (1575-1624) was a religious man. Of all the men in the way-back-when, Jacob Böhme was one man with a big imagination.

He had imagination coming out the yin-yang.

zebra
Zebra yin-yang.

He got into trouble with authorities (like a Jakob Bömb!) with new age notions in old world charm. He wondered why there’s evil in the world and why people don’t see Everything as a divine miracle like he did. He concluded that it’s because of a cosmic drama between opposites – light and dark, love and hate, eternity and time…

Each opposite contains the beginning point for the other aspect. Day becomes night then night becomes day. They are interdependent. The definition of one comes from the definition of the other.

penguin
Penguin yin-yang.

To Jakob, nature was a language of heavenly wisdom (God). If you can read the language, you can understand the invisible realm behind the visible (Encyclopedia). What we see is half of what there is.

The other half is in our mind.

calvin and hobbes small
Hobbes is on the left.

17th century philosophers like Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) thought of sensations, memories and understanding as imagination. Sensation is a “fancy,” memory is faded sensations and imagination puts it together in understanding (Standford).

The story goes that one morning in 1600, Jakob Böhme, young shoemaker and former cattle herder, focused his full attention on sunlight playing on a pewter bowl.

dutch-pewter-toy-porringer_6573_3
17th century pewter bowl (without sunbeams).
Jacob Boehme at his desk
Jakob not cobbling or shoemaking.

As he gazed at sunlight reflecting, he enjoyed a vision. He imagined a spiritual structure to the world and understood the unity of the cosmos (Jacob Boehme Online).

On another occasion Jakob wrote, “No word can express the great joy and triumph I experienced… as I was walking through a field of flowers, in fifteen minutes, I saw through the mystery of creation, the original of this world and of all creatures. . . . Then for seven days I was in a continual state of ecstasy” (Manuscripts).

field-flower-flowers-green
Wild flowers wildflowering.

Not bad. Imaginative vision. Spiritual realization. Inexpressible joy. Seven days of ecstasy. Sounds enjoyable. Jakob was as happy as a hippy high on love and psychedelics. All it took was attention, sunlight on metal, a field of flowers and some imagination.

Jacob-Böhme
Jakob had long hair.

The point is not to say that Jakob Böhme was special. He was, but no more than you! Everyone can have visions. It’s called imagination! Other-worldly experiences are available in this world here and now to anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Imagination is the power to form mental images. Imagine that you have an imagination and DING! You do.

Imagination is vision. We’re born with it. It’s easy. Try not to imagine a baby donkey.

donkey
Baby donkey stops to smell irises and has a vision of cosmic unity.

Jakob Böhme wrote, “All things are created out of imagination.” Are not cities, countries and economies the result of thought? Are not our lives, our imaginings? Imagination is made of thought. The difference is in perceptions of reality.

Scientific understanding of imagination is limited. Researchers say it comes from “a widespread network of neurons in the brain” (Huffpost Science). Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” That’s especially true when it comes to enjoying life when tragedy strikes.

diving_bellJean-Dominique Bauby (1952-1997) was an editor of ELLE magazine. At 43 he had a stroke that left him paralyzed from head to toe. Despite Bauby’s feeling of being under water and weighted down like a deep sea diver, in his memory and imagination, he was light and free like a butterfly.

With help and one eye to blink he wrote, “My cocoon becomes less oppressive, and my mind takes flight like a butterfly. There is so much to do. You can wander off in space or in time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas’s court” (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly).

Imagination powers a floodlight of attention. It’s not childish, nonsensical or a waste of time. Imagination is an intensification, an expansion and a freeing of your mind.

trail

Picture yourself walking up a trail. You breathe the air. Feel humidity. Feel temperature. You smell sage. You hear the sound of wind, a crow and crunching footsteps on stone. You feel every inch of your skin. You see the whole scene in the same way you hear a song in your head.

That’s the spirit of imagination. That’s the power of enjoyment! The time is now!

Wasteland
A wasteland wastelanding.

Imagination is a key to enjoying sadness and joy. Science may increase our knowledge, material well-being, birth rate and life expectancy, but there’s a price we pay.

In The Power of Myth Joseph Campbell wrote, “The world without spirit is a wasteland. People have the notion of saving the world by shifting things around, changing the rules, and who’s on top and so forth. No, no! Any world is a valid world if it’s alive.  The thing to do is to bring life into it, and the only way to do that is to find in your own case where the life is and become alive yourself(p. 183).

When Jakob died, his last words were, “Now I shall enter paradise.” What if you imagined yourself as Jakob Böhme with Jakob Böhme hair and Jakob Böhme eyes and you too focused your attention on reading the language of nature? What would it say to you?

Would see things differently? Maybe you’d see people not as biological personalities – not good or bad – not either/or but and. You’d see each person struggling, as a point of awareness, an essence or “spirit” as Jakob would say. If you imagined people and the world this way – as spiritually beautiful beyond material – would you too see Everything differently?

Just imagine.

 

********************************************

For Gail. Who discourages.

Enjoy A Simple Plan

We know what makes us happy (at least, in theory). If you’re not sure, just watch little children or read about elves and hobbits.

First, you enjoy something simple – preferably something in the natural world – and then, you, as an egotistical critic, get out of the way and let happiness happen.

How you value the world leads straight to enjoying it. With the right use of your senses, you can enjoy the world and accomplish a purpose for being in it. Without thinking about what you want or don’t want, you can convert a material world into a spirit of happiness.

joyPeople try to make themselves happy. When Judy Garland sang “Get Happy,” she did her best, but the song didn’t take. She was tired. She struggled to escape herself and died of an overdose at 47.

A clue as to why is in something she said, “I tried my damnedest to believe in the rainbow that I tried to get over and I couldn’t. SO WHAT!

Judy wanted something magical to come from outside herself to make her happy. When she sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow, she saw happiness as somewhere out there – over the rainbow, way up high – but it’s not. Happiness is here. Beyond joy and sorrow, utopia is now! If only Judy could have experienced the world like it was when she was a baby. Then no crying she’d make.

cloud

You become an act of happiness by losing self-consciousness. Happiness is not in the intellect. It’s in the light that you see by. Let your eye and the object you see complete each other.

Imagine that you are a cloud seeing and replace a dead mechanized world bound by selfish motivation, mental manacles, debt and scientific manipulation. Recreate it with your sense of enjoyment.

rainbow-road

rainbow diagramThink about how a rainbow appears. It’s your eye at the right angle combined with sunlight and water drops. Without you to see, a rainbow doesn’t appear. But a rainbow is more than light refraction. It isn’t a symbol. It has no reason for being. It’s light playing. It’s fun. It’s beauty.

It’s a miracle! It’s you seeing!

happy childImagine yourself as a child. You are fed and content. Your world is not filtered by custom, interpretation, and analysis. The world is new. Imagine seeing a butterfly for the first time!

A child without want is as free as a bird or flower. No regrets or worries. As a child of whatever age, you are as you are and in this, you are humility and humility is happiness.

happy hobbitIn The Lord of the Rings and PhilosophyGregory Bassham lists six lessons in happiness we can learn from Tolkien’s elves and hobbits: 1) Delight in simple things; 2) Make light of your troubles; 3) Get personal (cultivate friendships); 4) Cultivate good character; 5) Cherish and create beauty; and, 6) Rediscover Wonder (it’s not just bread).

We know that we should live a simple life. We should find hope and humour even in dire circumstances. We should have close friends. We should have good morals. We should clean our psychological window so things don’t look drab and familiar. We should be less self-interested and more amazed by the world.

frustrationEven though we know what we should and shouldn’t do, something invariably happens to complicate simplicity and sour generosity. Irritation, frustration and sadness can shred good intentions.

We can remind ourselves to be wise and live uncomplicated lives like a hobbit in the Shire, but something in the outside world can happen to shatter our plan.

Messy manBy the end of the day we’re tired. We wind up flaked out on a chair, covered in cheesie dust. What went wrong? We tried, but therein is our problem. Who was the one trying? Was the spirit willing and the flesh weak? Remember Dr. Schwartz’s scientific dictum, “You are not your brain” (see: It’s Not Me. It’s My Brain). A person must be detached enough to see himself objectively while at the same time committed to his own values (Kierkegaard).

sirenOur brains can be like a Siren song luring us like sailors to shipwreck on a rocky coast. Thoughts become habitual through repeated pleasure-seeking and dopamine. Our heart may say, “No-no,” but our brain says, “Yes-yes!” Our brain often urges us to do what we probably shouldn’t.

Tom BombadilWe may have more luxuries and conveniences thanks to the magic of technologies, but that doesn’t mean we’re happier. We’re busier. We now lack time to focus on things that produce a quieter happiness.

What’s to be done? Nothing much. Just some rewiring of our brains by forging new pathways and enjoyable singing of a Tom Bombadil song.

Henry David Thoreau said in Walden: “Our life is frittered away by detail… But men labor under a mistake.

“The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool’s life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before… Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! (Ch. 1…a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone” (Ch. 2).

thoreaus-cabin

You don’t have to build a cabin in the woods to live deliberately. You can live deliberately anywhere. Randomly stop what you’re doing. Freeze! Take the world in and move your eyes to gaze and listen.

All it takes is an ever so slight shift in focus, not to see what you think is there, but to see what is and isn’t.

 

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For little friend Timmy. Who enjoys a good thunder storm.

Congeniality, Ideal Goodness and Enjoyment

Saab2Two guys are driving in a vintage car in Portland, Oregon. The driver says to the passenger, “I think you’re supposed to have fun in life.” “I’m right with you,” says the passenger shaking his head from side to side. “Great,” says the driver. “Right with you,” repeats the passenger.

A_small_cup_of_coffeeThey rattle on. “I’m really enjoying this car. Are you?” “I love it,” says the passenger.

As far-fetched as it sounds, this conversation happened. The guys are Jerry Seinfeld and Fred Armisen. The show is Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

not funIt’s not hard to imagine two congenial friends like this having fun together, but what about someone who doesn’t have fun? What then?

Someone enters the words, “no enjoyment out of life” as a search term and finds this blog. Does it help or is it like John Steinbeck said in 1961, “No one wants advice, only corroboration?”

You can set the stage for enjoyment like they do in Comedians in Cars, but whether you get it or not, depends.

There’s a knack to it.

knack
A banker.

Ask people: “What do you do if you have no enjoyment?” From a banker you get a loan. From a stoic you get, “Do what you can, not what you can’t.” From a positive psychologist you get, “Think positive!” (and take your damn anti-depressants!).

big joe turnerFrom a bartender you get a drink. From a hedonist you get hedonism. From a believer you get belief. From a radical you get radicalized. From Big Joe Turner you get Shake, Rattle and Roll.

What you get depends on who’s giving it. Things like receptivity (What Do You Enjoy?), determination (The First Step), awareness (Who am I?) and planning (Rules of Enjoyment) help, but there’s more to it.

lamborginiIt’s like what Chris Rock said in Comedians in Cars when Jerry asked him what he thought of a car. Chris Rock said, “I like you Jerry… everything is about the company … If we were in a cab, we would probably be having the same exact conversation.”

Someone who gets no enjoyment probably won’t get it from lighthearted banter and a Lamborghini. You need an ideal.

goodnessLife is justified by its fruits. Whether you eat or drink, do so for the sake of life, of enjoyment and the ideal of goodness. What is goodness? You know it when you see it. A good is a natural delight in the the senses, in affections, and in the mind. A vision of heaven on earth is ideal goodness.

weedsThat the end of life is death may sound sad, but what other end could anything have? At the end of a party you go to bed. At the end of a dance, you sit down. At the end of the day, you go home. After tea, you wash your cup.

Transitoriness is essential. Existence is change.

Things get sad with sentimentality. When we imagine that an end is untimely, we get sad. The trick is to live in the presence of ideal goodness. It’s all around. You die, but goodness doesn’t.

The world can be dangerous. We take shelter in human constructions, but the next storm, earthquake, or bomb can take it down. Despite the odds of catastrophe, pain and suffering, challenge the assumptions you have of a universe of desires and come to self-knowledge. You get it when you don’t. It’s a new order. The decision is yours.

whynot

The vision you’re having right now is your life. Here. Now. Reading this silly little blog, you can be completely aware of yourself in the place you are. Seeing with these eyes. The voice you hear is your own.

marcus
Marcus Aurelius as he looked in 151 AD.

If you are catastrophe free, count yourself glad. If not, as the stoic said, “You win. You lose.” Or, as Marcus Aurelius said when he stubbed his toe on a throne, “Misfortune nobly born is good fortune” (Meditations).

Forge on. Become goodness incarnate. Goodness shows as humility, kindness and a lack of self-centredness. Empathize! Enjoy updowns.

thoreau
Henry Thoreau as he looked in 1861.

Breathe a silent sigh. As an animal with a mind, filled with folly, happiness and sorrow, a stupid dreaming creature with odd perspectives in the midst of a vast natural world, quietly observe the place you find yourself in and look for harmonies. Imagine yourself as the earth seeing itself seeing itself.

Ideal goodness is the enjoyment that emerges when you connect or as Henry Thoreau said to himself in the woods after leaving the pencil factory, “Goodness is the only investment that never fails” (Walden, 1854).

summerSo, what do you do? Live the ideal of good. Live in the imagination of ultimate things and like Mother said, “Go outside! Be good!” Enjoy the music of strawberries in the summertime (even if they’re in your mind).

Imagination and Enjoyment

English_SheepproustMarcel Proust (1871-1922), French novelist and bed writer, came from a wealthy family. He had the Leisure of a W.H. Davies poem and enjoyed pondering ponderings, galleries, fine dining, observing and writing without brevity.

In Remembrance of Things Past (1923), people say he wrote about having new eyes (as in a metaphorical ocular transplant), but that’s not quite what he meant.

eye2His wordiness is construed as follows: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

It’s become a slogan slathered on pillows and bric-à-brac for those who enjoy pithy inspirations.

music2In a salon long ago, Proust enjoyed a musical performance that transported him to a wonderful “strange land” in his mind (see: What Proust Really Said… and a reenactment).

He was writing about beholding with the eyes of another person so as to appreciate the universe from that person’s perspective – especially the perspective of a painter or composer who help us to fly with them from star to star.

The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is; and this we can contrive with an Elstir, with a Vinteuil; with men like these we do really fly from star to star” (Proust, “The Captive“).

hesselberth_empathy_nytimes
Joyce Hesselberth: Developing Empathy

Imagine yourself as another person. Feel what he or she feels. It’s an enjoyable projection. To drink of the fountain of youth is to behold with the eyes of a child.

Neuroscience describes this as the act of mirror neurons: “a type of brain cell that respond equally when we perform an action and when we witness someone else perform the same action (The Mind’s Mirror).

This is to see a man drink and say, “This is better than good,” and taste it yourself. It is to see a person’s foot do something and neurons connected to our own foot fire. It’s like that Joe South song, Walk a Mile in My Shoes, that Elvis sang.

shoesThe relation between yourself and the world is like a pair of shoes. You have a left shoe (that’s you) and a right shoe (everybody else). You take care of both out of self-interest. You imagine the best life possible by maximizing choices to get what you want.

george ainslie
George Ainslie (not Larry David)

George Ainslie, psychiatrist and economist, is quoted in Wisdom: From Philosophy to Neuroscience (Hall, 2010) as saying, “Self-control is the art of making the future bigger” (p. 173). You imagine a future you’ll enjoy over an immediate gratification you’ll regret.

You construct, as Ainslie says, “your idea of your character, your idea of heaven, your idea of simply the moral life, the kind of person you insist on being in the long run… (it) is a budgetary skill” (p. 173).

There are two aspects to enjoyment: one is to have awareness of reality (beyond the way it appears and the way you want it to be) and the other is to use this awareness of reality to take action to increase happiness and decrease suffering.

golden ruleA rampantly selfish campaign is like focusing only on the left shoe (your self). To do that is to hop on one foot. It’s tiring and leads to tumbles.

Not enjoyable.

Every creature wants to avoid suffering and be happy, but happiness and suffering are interconnected. We know this. The other guy is like you.

boomerangWith imagination (and those mirror neurons), we see from another person’s mind and make choices knowing that another’s well-being is as our own. Kindness towards another is advanced self-interest.
california-starsTrain yourself to enjoy like it’s an Olympic event and you’re an enjoyment athlete. Even when you lose, you lose well. Enjoyment hangs like grapes picked like California Stars.

See humour in oddities, as from above. Will enjoyment and let it roll. Just imagine. Practice emotional self-control and let go. Notice surroundings and contemplate. Contrary to what you may have been told, you’re not special and those who think they are: probably aren’t. Humility is a key to enjoy ability.

The trick is to enjoy the expanse, float and feel at home in yourself.

Horizons, Games, Connections and Enjoyment

horizonPeople enjoy games. They say that “life is a game.” Who they are isn’t clear, but you know: “They say a lot of things.”

On the Internet Einstein is quoted as saying, “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” When he said this isn’t clear. It doesn’t sound like him.

the_problem_with_quotes_found_on_the_internet_saA web site with the tagline, “the best answer to any question,” said: “He (Einstein) wasn’t really big on advertising how he was better than other people,” (see: Quora.com).

The analogy of life as a game, isn’t a stretch. Life has rules (physical and man-made), winners and losers (depending on who you ask) and, like all games, life appears to end.

CheckeredGameofLifeMilton Bradley used to sell a portrait of Abraham Lincoln without a beard. When Lincoln grew a beard, sales dried up.

Such is life.

In 1860 Bradley came up with the first popular board game called the Checkered Game of Life. It had a moral message. According to Wikipedia, the object of the game was to land on “good” spaces, collect points, and reach “Happy Old Age” in the upper corner, opposite “Infancy” where you start.

The game evolved into a track now called The Game of Life. It simulates a person’s travels from school to jobs, to marriage and children. The purpose of the game is to enjoy it.

Such is life.

JoeSouth
Joe South (1940-2012) as he looked in 1970.

In 1969, Joe South observed: “Oh the games people play now. Every night and every day now. Never meaning what they say now. Never saying what they mean. And they wile away the hours, in their ivory towers, till they’re covered up with flowers, in the back of a black limousine.”

The song came from a 1964 book about the “games” human beings play in interacting with one another.

450px-Grantland_Rice_1921_04590r
Grantland Rice on the links in 1921.

In 1908 Grantland Rice, a Southern sport journalist, wrote, “For when the One Great Scorer comes; To mark against your name; He writes – not that you won or lost – But how you played the Game” (Alumnus Football). From this we get the saying it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.

In the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000), Gartland Rice was played by Lane Smith (a Southerner).

bagger vance
Click image to see film clip of golf in the field.

The legend is based on the Bhagavad Gita which is about a warrior hero named Arjuna (Junah=Matt Damon) who refuses to fight (or play) until the god Bhagavan (Bagger Vance=Will Smith) helps him find his way through awareness of the field.

Bagger says, “You got to look with soft eyesSee the place where the tides and the seasons and the turnin’ of the Earth, all come togetherwhere everything that is becomes oneYou got to seek that place with your soul Junuh… Seek it with your hands. Don’t think about it… Feel it… Your hands is wiser than your head ever gonna be…”

In the story Junah (Matt Damon) failed when he concentrated on himself and worried about failure. He succeeded when he played to enjoy – with awareness from his senses. He succeeded when he forgot about himself and concentrated on doing the work as well as he could and identifying himself with the field. That is when he entered an infinite game. That is simple enjoyment.

Retired professor, James P. Carse, said in Finite and Infinite Games (1986) that there are two kinds of games: 1) a finite game – played for the purpose of winning; and, 2) an infinite game – played for the purpose of continuing to play (p. 3)

In a finite game there is an ending. There are boundaries. Opponents are known by their differences. Winning or losing is thought of in terms of one to the other and it’s imagined in terms of life or death. To play is a choice of spontaneous desire (Carse, SALT talk, 2005).

landscape2In an infinite game the rules or boundaries are like a horizon. It moves. Where it is depends on where you are. It’s ill-defined. Nature on this planet is our best example of an infinite game. It plays to continue to play. It plays to keep players in the game.

The rules in an infinite game allow players to continue without a limitation – not even death. It is infinite because limits are taken into play. “Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries” (p. 10, Finite and Infinite Games).

Go into the field. Enjoy the game. As the song says, “It’s all inside you.”

Wisdom and Enjoyment

cat
Louis. A  friend to everyone. Enjoying.

Every philosophy has a central reference point. The central reference point here is that life is to be enjoyed. What could be simpler? Enjoy life. But then: Is all enjoyment equal? Does anything go? 

Much has been said of sensual awareness in the natural environment, of beauty, of peace, of simple pleasures, of self-control, of kindness, of humility, of humour in all things and so on – all good stuff albeit not what a seeker of excitement would envision; nevertheless, in all this, it’s clear: Not all enjoyment is equal and not everything that can be done should be.

It’s a matter of wisdom.

Between thinking expressed here and your interpretation of this thinking, a wise heart is nurtured.

nature-healing

It was said: “The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away…So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart” (Psalm 90, King James Bible). To gain a wise heart, count your days and enjoy them, for they are numbered.

hesiod
Hesiod (circa 650 BC)

Hesiod, 8th Century BC Greek poet and farmer, wrote: “… man is best who sees the truth himself. Good too is he who listens to wise counsel. But who is neither wise himself nor willing to ponder wisdom is not worth a straw” (source: Goodreads). Do you listen to wise counsel or do you think you know it all? Are you worth a straw?

Philosophy is a critical reflection. It is the love of wisdom. It is human. You can analyse the world you’re in and question what passes for common sense (Critchley, 2001) but is it wise to get worked up about it? Wisdom is a way of seeing the big picture. Enjoy wisely.

howards end_blue 5Real enjoyment isn’t what ant-like machine-people say it is. Dismiss nihilism as nothing and find something in the meaning of enjoying a flower. It’s meaning is that it lives and is beautiful. It’s a matter of attention: Attention. Attention. Attention.

bad behaviourReal enjoyment is wise. It is not crude or puerile. It is not a paved landscape. It is not computer devices or money. It’s not booze, drugs and giggles. Go Bach to a time when you felt divine. Walk. Live beauty in the mind. Enjoyment is not a gregarious mob. It’s a peach and things small.

readerEnjoyment is a Gestalt. It’s outside in nature and inside a cosy Howard’s End corner of your own where you can keep the aspidistra flying like Wolf Solent or Siddhartha and eat grapes of wrath far from the madding crowd.

Enjoyment is contemplative. It’s subtle. It’s sublime. To any decision the central question to ask is: Is it wise?

urban-sprawl-2

For example: Developers build sub-divisions, a carpet of roads, endless house-boxes, box stores and parking lots. It may be enjoyable, but: Is it wise? The developers enjoy getting rich. Workers enjoy working. People enjoy flooring, cars, packaged food and drink. This is progress! This is success and economics, but, again: Is it wise?

Middle-aged children enjoy beer and mean-spirited jokes. He-men enjoy loud trucks and testosterone. Women enjoy buying what isn’t needed. Commuters enjoy express-ways lined by animal splatters, but: Is it wise?

wisdomA philosopher can only smile and do what can be done with a sense of humour. The highest happiness is a reflective life and an examined life, but an unlived life marked by frustration is not worth examining. One must live and in living, enjoy what is good.

Religion put faces to good and evil. Such faces were made real by imagination. To some people the supernatural is more real than a planet under siege – they hardly notice the droughts, endangered animals, floods and chaos – but good and evil come in the guise of ordinary people like ourselves doing what they do without being wise.

Good is kind. Evil is not. In any situation one may behave well or reprehensibly. We slip, but we get up and try to enjoy ourselves gently. We say stupid things on occasion. Personality and a personal philosophy (or lack thereof) say more than we realize. Look at yourself. Are you good? Are you bad? Are you both? What are your ideals?

Do the right thing. Look at the big picture and enjoy wisely.